Dhaka, 1st October 2010: In a cultural award ceremony attended by several prominent South Asian activists at the Bangladesh Shilpkala Academy, the Meeto Memorial Award for young South Asians was given to Akeela Naz, a farmer and woman’s leader from Punjab, Pakistan, whose untiring work has helped trigger land reforms in favour of thousands of landless farmers. The inaugural ceremony was attended by over 400 people comprising artists, activists, academicians and diplomats. Many guests came for the programme from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Iran and other parts of the world.
Delivering the keynote address at the occasion, Sunila Abeyasekera, well-known, award-winning international human rights and women’s activist from Sri Lanka said, “I am extremely happy to be associated with this award instituted in the memory of Meeto, a very fine young woman who I had the privilege of knowing personally. Meeto’s short life stands as an example of beauty, artistic and intellectual achievements and deep commitment to a syncretic South Asia. This Award is not just a tribute to Meeto and her work, but also a recognition of the achievements of many young South Asians like her who are living their dreams for a better world”.
Offering a word of thanks, Dr. Hameeda Hossain, prominent human rights activist, author and the founder of Ain O Salish Kendra, expressed her happiness at this unique South Asian award which was not only choosing South Asian individuals but also moving from one South Asian country to another. (The 2009 Award ceremony took place in Delhi, India). Dr. Hossain said that the Award was a very valuable contribution to the South Asian world of human rights work.
Khushi Kabir, the founder of Nijera Kori and a member of Sangat’s Core Group, said she was delighted to host the award in Bangladesh. Abha Bhaiya, one of the leaders’ of the Indian women’s movement and Anis Haroon, Chairperson of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission were among some of the many other South Asian activists that attended the ceremony.
The Award was handed over by Anusheh Anadil, singer and cultural activist from Dhaka and winner of the 2009 Meeto Memorial Award. Anusheh and her group of musicians enthralled the audience with their performance.
Meeto (Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik) (1978-2006) was a scholar, activist and dancer. She studied at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, New Delhi and Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh.
She graduated with first class honours in History from Stephen’s College. She won the Radhakrishnan-British Chevening Scholarship to study history at St Hilda’s College in Oxford University and graduated from there also with first class honours.
Between 2001 and 2004, Meeto researched and wrote on projects ranging from the refugee problem in post-Partition Punjab to the role of parliamentarians in Indian democracy and the role of the colonial census in creating monolithic identities in Sri Lanka (research that led her to spend three months with the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo).
She was the first primary coordinator of SAHR (South Asians for Human Rights) and helped organize the first general convention of SAHR in Neemrana, Rajasthan in 2002 and in Delhi the year after. Between 2003 and mid-2004, she worked as a programme associate at the Ford Foundation in Delhi working on human rights and development issues.
In 2004, Meeto won the Clarendon fellowship and returned to Oxford University. Her pre-doctoral research, tragically interrupted by her passing away in 2006, is published under the title Making: Identity Formation in South Asia by the Three Essays Collective.
As a dancer, Meeto performed with Leela Samson’s dance production Spanda across India and in Bangladesh.
Meeto’s academic and professional interests were at one with the way she lived. She revelled in the aesthetic traditions of the multiple religious and cultural traditions to which she was an heir as a South Asian citizen.
To commemorate her brief but brilliant life, Meeto’s mother, Kamla Bhasin has decided to institute an award in her memory to honour young South Asians whose work demonstrates a commitment to communal harmony, peace, justice and human rights. The Award comprises of Indian Rupees one lakh, a citation and a memento. If more than one person is selected, the money will be shared. The recipients will be invited to present their work at the award ceremony. The Award will be announced in October every year. The recipients of the Award will be chosen by a selection committee whose decision will be final.
To be eligible, nominees must be:
• Under the age of 40
• Citizens of a South Asian country (Afghanistan, Bangladesh,Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)
• Working on issues of communal harmony, peace, justice and/or human rights, broadly conceived; the nominee may be working anywhere in the world, but the focus of the work should be on South Asia as defined above
• Working in any capacity in the field of activism, advocacy, academia, and journalism, and in any medium such as writing, art, dance, music, film, and theatre.
The Advisory Committee of the Meeto Memorial Award:
Asma Jahangir, Pakistan, Hameeda Hossain, Bangladesh, Sithie Tiruchelvam, Sri Lanka
Syeda Hameed, India , Sadanand Menon, India , Anusha Lall, India , Rahul Rao, India/UK , Kamla Bhasin, India
The Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians is managed by ANHAD and Sangat.
For more information, please contact: Meeto Memorial Award Secretariat ANHAD, 23, Canning Lane, New Delhi 110001 Telephone 23070740/ 22, e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Details also at www.meetomemorialaward.org